TV column for Friday, Jan. 17

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Blue Bloods,” 10 p.m., CBS.

In a beautifully understated performance, Donnie Wahlberg
captures the quiet pain of a former combat soldier, trying to save another
veteran. Danny (Wahlberg) tries to brush aside his son’s questions about the
war, while pursuing a vet who has disappeared with his own son.

It’s a solemn and well-crafted story, paired with a lesser
one that sees Danny’s dad (Tom Selleck), the police commissioner, pondering a
decade-old murder case.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Helix,” 10 p.m., Syfy.

Last week’s taut opener saw doctors from the Centers for
Disease Control arrive at a mysterious Arctic research facility, where a virus
was spreading from monkeys to people.

Now some doctors feel they have it contained. Then come the
fierce aftershocks, with one of them attacked and infected.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Banshee,” 10 p.m., Cinemax.

The two hallmarks of pay-TV – sex and violence – peak
tonight, much of it well-crafted. The sex arrives in the opening montage,
setting up the brutal collisions that follow.

As usual, the hero (an escaped convict who assumed the
identity of now-Sheriff Lucas Hood) bashes heads. Now there are more people in
play -- Nola Longfellow, the fierce American Indian assassin …. Siobhan Kelly,
Hood’s deputy, confronting her nasty ex-husband … and Carrie Hopewell, the
alternate identity of a former jewel thief. Carrie’s been told to keep a low
profile in prison; don’t expect her to.

Other choices include:

“Cold Justice,” 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus 8 p.m., TNT. You can
catch the entire first season during the day, then start the second one at
night. What you’ll get is some serious non-fiction, with small-town cases
re-opened by skilled pros. Yolanda McClary worked in the Las Vegas crime lab (the
“CSI” setting) for 26 years; Kelly Siegler has been a Texas lawyer for 16 years,
prosecuting and winning 68 murder trials.

“Last Man Standing,” 8 p.m., ABC. When Boyd has trouble
staying still, the school suggests medication; his grandfather (Tim Allen) and
father object. Also, Mandy makes a belated effort to be a good student.

“The Neighbors,” 8:31 p.m., ABC. As the high school reunion
nears, Marty savors a chance to re-unite his old “hair band.” Debbie (Jami
Gertz) dreads a confrontation with her old nemesis (Lori Loughlin).

 “Hawaii Five-0,” 9
p.m., CBS. Police re-open the long-ago case involving the murder of Chin’s

“Great Performances at the Met,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local
listings). Anna Netrebko stars in the Tchaikovsky opera “Eugene Onedin.”

“Raising Hope,” 9 p.m., Fox. Three generations compete in a
hot-dish competition, when Virginia faces her mother-in-law (Shirley Jones) and
her daughter-in-law.

“Enlisted,” 9:30 p.m., Fox. After last week’s terrific
opener, here’s a fairly good second episode. Pete, the supersoldier, is
deadlocked in competitions with Jill Perez. Meanwhile, his brother Randy –
who’s great at human relations – may flunk rifle marksmanship.

 “Patton Oswalt:
Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time,” 10 p.m., Epix. Oswalt turns his daily
experiences into the fodder for some amiable stand-up comedy. 

TV column for Thursday, Jan. 16

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Community,” 8 p.m., NBC.

On rare occasions, a show sweeps aside everything else and
goes with just its wit. That happens here; except for a lame epilogue, the
entire episode is done in one room, with only the regulars plus one.

That’s Walton Goggins (“Justified”) as the lawyer for Pierce.
Before inheriting anything, his study-group colleagues must submit to a
lie-detector. The questions are planned to reveal secrets and stir dissension;
the result – brilliantly written, perfectly played – brings big, eccentric

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Parks and Recreation,” 8:30 p.m.,

After a pile of previous nominations – six for Emmys, two
for Golden Globes – without wins, Amy Poehler finally has a Globe. Maybe that
will draw people to the quietly clever “Parks.”

This is a convenient time to catch it, as Leslie (Poehler)
and her boyfriend Ben (Adam Scott) start new jobs. Friends plan a prank on Ben,
Tom plans a big presentation and Ann and Chris ponder a big step.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “30 for 30: The Price of Gold,”
9-10:30 p.m., ESPN.

In 1994, the American skating champs were opposites. Nancy
Kerrigan looked sleek and glamorous and sounded dull and distant; Tonya Harding
was none of those. An impoverished kid in a sport for the wealthy, she
practiced in a shopping-mall rink and says she was battered by her mom and her husband.

Then that husband and his friend confessed to hiring someone
to bash Kerrigan’s knee. A few people – Kerrigan and the confessed conspirators
– weren’t available for this excellent documentary, but many were.  That includes Harding, still professing her
innocence in one of the oddest moments in sports.

Other choices include:

“Broadcast Film Critics Association” awards, 8-10 p.m., CW.
Awards shows are piling up now. The two best-picture winners (“American Hustle”
for comedy, “12 Years a Slave” for drama) lead here with 13 nominations apiece.
For best picture, they face “Gravity,” “Captain Phillips,” “Her,” “Nebraska,”
“Saving Mr. Banks,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and “The Wolf
of Wall Street.”

“American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox. Here’s the second night of

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS. In a rerun, Raj designs
a tough scavenger hunt.

“Project Runway,” 8 p.m. to midnight, Lifetime. First is a
reunion of the “All-Stars” edition that concluded last week with Seth Aaron
Henderson (the 2010 “Runway” champ) winning. Then a new edition starts at 9 and
repeats at 10:31; it’s redubbed “Under the Gunn,” with Tim Gunn hosting.

“The Crazy Ones,” 9:01 p.m., CBS. This rerun includes some
great moments for Josh Groban, as an ex-employee who has written an obsessive love
song about Sydney.

“Two and a Half Men,” 9:31 p.m., CBS. In a rerun of the funny
season-opener, Amber Tamblyn plays Charlie’s daughter. She has her dad’s traits,
including a lust for women.

“Parenthood,” 10 p.m., NBC. Zeek is delighted that Camille
is back, but other generations are wobbling. Their daughter Julia has a
strained marriage; their granddaughter Amber is in deep despair, after former fiancé
Ryan left her and re-enlisted in the Army.

TV column for Wednesday, Jan.15

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “American Idol” season-opener, 8-10
p.m., Fox.

After a sluggish 12th season, “Idol” has retooled
and refueled. Gone are Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson and Nicki Minaj; far gone is
the old emphasis on bad auditions and acerbic judges.

Keith Urban is the lone surviving judge from last year,
joined by the return of Jennifer Lopez and by Harry Connick Jr. The others dub
him “Hatchet Harry,” but we see few signs of it here. Mostly, three smart and
likable judges praise (sometimes excessively) some talented young singers.

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE II: “Suburgatory” return, 8:30 p.m., ABC.

Tessa’s world is ready to transform again. Her vagabond mom
has vanished and she’s back with her dad … who, after breaking up with Dallas,
is ready to return to the city life Tessa once loved.

What could keep them in suburbia? The dad has rescued a
mangy mutt from the pound; neighbors in this pedigree world are appalled. Tessa
has a new cause and “Suburgatory” has a strong episode.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Chicago P.D.,” 10 p.m., NBC.

This show’s opener delivered tough strokes. One cop was
killed; another’s son was kidnapped, in a scheme to free a big-time killer.

Now Antonio (Jon Seda) races to find his boy, with his boss
(Jason Beghe) taking a by-any-means approach. The bad news is that this
continues TV’s obsession with torture as a solution; the good is that it offers
a taut and involving portrait of people who are passionate about family and

Other choices include:

“Revolution,” 8 p.m., NBC. Monroe is on new turf, having to
make a decision about his son. Meanwhile, Neville and Julia continue to argue.

“The Middle,” 8 p.m., ABC. Sue finally learns that Axl is
the one who stole her mascot head; belatedly, she plots prank revenge. Also,
Frankie’s boss (Jack McBrayer) wants her family to fill his friendship void.

“Two and a Half Men,” 8 p.m., CBS. Here’s a transplanted
rerun of the show’s first Miley Cyrus episode, a good one. She plays the
daughter of a friend of Walden … who is suddenly feeling very old

“The Millers,” 8:30 p.m., CBS. Sibling rivalry resurfaces,
decades late. Nathan (Will Arnett) is stunned to learn that his sister is their
dad’s favorite. He decides to spill some of her old secrets.

“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9 p.m., NBC.
Stepping out of a party, Amaro joins a chase and gravely wounds a teen-ager.
The case soon has the focus of the community and the SVU team.

 “Modern Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. An impressive guest cast has Jesse Eisenberg (an Oscar-nominee for “Social
Network”) as a judgmental, eco-conscious neighbor … Jane Krakowski (four-time
Emmy-nominee for “30 Rock”) as a “mean girl” mom … and Tony-winner John
Benjamin Hickey as Alex’s therapist.

“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” 10 p.m., CBS. At first, an
airline headed to Las Vegas seems to merely have a petty crime and a
disgruntled passenger (Joel Grey). Then a murder is found onboard.

TV column for Tuesday, Jan. 14

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Justified,” 10 p.m., FX.

Last week’s season-opener saw Boyd Crowder desperate to free
Ava. When a judge rejected his bribe, he beat him and left him for dead.

Now come the aftershocks, including the schemes of the
judge’s Russian wife. There’s more, including the return of someone who complicates
Raylan’s life … and adds fresh human elements to a great show.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 8:30 p.m., Fox.

When this show started, we saw the bet between Jake (Andy
Samberg) and Amy, over who would have the most felony arrests. Now comes the
pay-off, in a busy and clever episode with two more stories.

Boyle – often mocked by his colleagues – gets a medal of
valor, but must share the spotlight. And Holt accidentally complicates
Jefford’s life; skilled pros (Andre Braugher, Terry Crews) find some silly fun.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “American Experience,” 8-10 p.m., PBS
(check local listings).

At first glance, 1964 seemed like an extension of the ‘50s,
light-hearted and light-headed. “Beverly Hillbillies” led the TV ratings, with
Andy Griffith and “Petticoat Junction” nearby; musicals (“My Fair Lady,” “Mary
Poppins”) were big in theaters and the Beatles sang of holding hands.

Still, this became a pivotal year. It brought the “Freedom
Summer” in Mississippi, with waves of violence that led to the historic
civil-rights act. It brought feminism and the free-speech movement; it also
brought Barry Goldwater, young conservatives and a re-alignment of the parties.

This compelling film mixes historians and people whose own lives
quaked, 50 years ago

Other choices include:

“NCIS,” 8 p.m., CBS. The drone attack has left McGee
emotionally shaken. It has also yielded fresh information for tracking and Parsa.

“Pretty Little Liars,” 8 p.m., ABC Family. There might be
some key information, if the codes in A’s diary can be solved. Then again,
there might be things the friends would rather keep secret.

“NCIS: Los Angeles,” 9 p.m., CBS. A two-continent search
finds Granger (Miguel Ferrer) and Kensi in Afghanistan, helping with a case
involving Hawala, an ancient system of money transfer.

“Building Wild” debut, 9 p.m., National Geographic. Paul
DiMeo is a city guy who designed for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition;” Paul “Tuffy”
Bakaitis is a country guy who invents and improvises. Together, they build
rural retreats, often while sniping at each other. This one, a mountain-top
cabin, is a delight.

“Ravenswood,” 9 p.m., ABC Family. Caleb’s dad arrives to see
what he’s up to in Ravenswood. Also, the police descend on Luke and Olivia’s

“Chicago Fire,” 10 p.m., NBC. Denial and avoidance are big
here. Casey claims to be fine after his near-death experience; Shay keeps
eluding a lawyer who wants to discuss Daryl’s suicide.

TV column for Monday, Jan. 13

TONIGHT’S MUST-SEE: “Intelligence,” 10 p.m., CBS.

After Tuesday’s debut – fairly big in quality, huge in
ratings – this show moves to its regular slot.

Gabriel (Josh Holloway) insists his wife – missing for seven
years – is alive and undercover. Now she may be linked to a suicide-bomb
crisis; Riley (Meghan Ory) must keep Gabe’s emotions from botching the case. It’s
a good hour … especially compared to the awful show (“Hostages”) that had this
time slot.

TONIGHT’S MIGHT-SEE: “The Bachelor,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC.

As 18 women move into the mansion, one is quickly noticed.
Lucy, 24, is simply described as a “free spirit” from Santa Barbara, Cal.; she
goes topless in the hot top (not a popular move among the other women) and
volunteers to be nude during a calendar shoot for a charity.

Meanwhile, Juan Pablo Galavis has his first two dates. Kat must
settle for a five-kilometer run; Clare gets a “winter wonderland,” complete
with artificial snow, sledding and a concert by Josh Krajcik.

TONIGHT’S ALTERNATIVE: “Bitten” debut, 10 p.m., Syfy.

Left on her own, Elena Michaels could probably have an easy

As played by Laura Vandervoort – who was Supergirl on
“Smallville” and the alien leader’s daughter on “V” -- she’s bright, blonde and
beautiful, a photographer with a city life and a handsome boyfriend.

Alas, she’s also a recovering werewolf, with lots of
complications. As the best tracker among her kin, she’s asked to return to the
family estate and find a rogue who has been chomping people. The result – part of
a no-rerun Syfy night -- is a fairly interesting blend of sci-fi and upscale
soap opera.

Other choices include:

“American Ninja Warrior” special, 8-10 p.m., NBC. This
competition was adapted from an obstacle-course show in Japan. Now five-man
teams from those countries compete, with one-on-one races.

“Lost Girl,” 8 p.m., Syfy. As the season starts, the “lost
girl” (Bo) really is lost. And that’s a good thing; it means Kenzi must take control,
using limited (and temporary) powers. Quirky and clueless (sometimes), Kenzi is
an offbeat hero, facing a new villain – a giant snake with George Takei head
and torso. One gimmick (Takei hisses every “s”) soon wears thin, but the rest
of the hour is interesting.

“Being Human,” 9 p.m., Syfy. At first, this show was simply
a ghost, vampire and werewolf living together; then the complications began.
Now the ghost is in an alternate realm … the werewolf is virtually a full-time
wolf … and the vampire has his own surprise, in a fairly good season-opener.

“Brain Games,” 9 and 9:30 p.m., National Geographic.
Something happens, this dandy season-opener says, in the route from eyes to
brains. We see colors that aren’t there; at times, a “color-blind” person sees
better than we do. Those are shown alongside a dazzling stage show that seems
to defy gravity.

“The Blacklist,” 10 p.m., NBC. As Red tries to find the mole
who betrayed him, Liz hunts a serial killer.

“Independent Lens,” 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., PBS (check local
listings). So this is why there are editing machines. Frederick Wiseman is noted
for his documentary style -- no narration no interviews, long takes. But this
film (viewing the University of California, Berkeley) goes too far. Early on,
there are discussions so long-winded – and sometimes pointless – that you’ll
want to hire your own editor.

“Castle,” 10:01 p.m., ABC. James Brolin returns as Castle’s
father, suddenly tied to a murder probe.